From the Editor…

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2006), Letters, Volume 14

Making conversation

So the state-sponsored military parade took place through the streets of Dublin and the sky didn’t fall. Even those who had initially been hostile to the idea for party-political reasons (particularly the manner in which it had been announced) were impressed by the dignity of the event and the warm and enthusiastic response of the tens of thousands of onlookers. It is clear that the Irish public is comfortable with the concept of commemorating the 1916 Rising as one of the founding events of the state. At the same time, the debate (or ‘conversation’) about the Rising’s significance has not been triumphalist or one-sided. Many voices have been heard and from a wide spectrum of opinion, including unionist. The public has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for 1916-related material, and this has been met by both the media and academia with special supplements, documentaries, seminars and public meetings. (History Ireland’s own modest contribution has been well received.) And of course it’s not over yet. The conversation will continue in the summer schools of the coming season and over the next decade in the run-up to the centenary in 2016.
However, this is no time for complacency or self-congratulation in the history/heritage field. As a society we have still not reconciled the conflicting demands of heritage and development. How are we to reconcile the needs of the hard-pressed commuter from Navan with the need to preserve one of the richest archaeological sites in the world, the Tara/Brú na Bóinne landscape, threatened by the planned M3 motorway? Why should the state spend tax-payers’ money on purchasing the site of the Battle of the Boyne while another arm of the state (Meath County Council) is set to desecrate it by sanctioning the extension of the cement works at Platin or the siting of an incinerator at Carranstown? (See ‘Platform’ opposite.) We need some joined-up thinking on these issues and not the current zero-sum positions of ‘heritage versus development’. We need a proper ‘national conversation’ on this too.

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